McCain vs. Norquist

Posted June 27, 2005 at 6:40pm

Grover Norquist makes no apologies about calling Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a “nut job.” But McCain isn’t exactly thrilled with the insult. His administrative assistant, Mark Salter, shot back at the Americans for Tax Reform president, issuing this statement Monday evening on behalf of McCain:

“There’s never been a shortage of blowhards and bores in this town. I’m sure Grover is comfortable in their crowded ranks, but that hardly merits the attention he craves. I assume he wants to provoke us, but it’s hard to work up much interest for someone who in his continued warm embrace of Jack Abramoff is doing a more than adequate job of marginalizing himself. [IMGCAP(1)]

Most Reagan revolutionaries came to Washington to do something more patriotic than rip off Indian tribes.”

Ouch!

Norquist told HOH that the Dallas Morning News must have misquoted him when the newspaper reported that the ATR honcho referred to McCain and Maine GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in a speech to college Republicans as “the two girls from Maine and the nut job from Arizona.” “No, no, no,” Norquist said, oozing with irony. “What I said was ‘the gun grabbing tax increaser from Arizona.’”

One might think that Norquist is bitter about McCain’s hearings in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last week that exposed Norquist’s and other conservative activists’ ties to everybody’s favorite lobbyist whipping boy, Jack Abramoff.

But Norquist insists that he has nothing to be bitter about. McCain “embarrassed himself. I’m delighted with the way things turned out,” Norquist said of last week’s hearing, which revealed, among other things, that the Americans for Tax Reform president once asked Abramoff to steer Choctaw Indian money his way to cover a “hole” in his budget. “He tried to misuse his committee to steal our donor list. Then he lied about it, saying he hadn’t done it when he had.”

Several GOP Senate aides expressed outrage at Norquist for demeaning Maine’s female Senators as well as McCain. One of them said, “He who lives in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Snowe, was more diplomatic, saying her boss’s colleagues in the Senate “recognize that Sen. Snowe is a woman who takes her job very seriously. And they respect her qualifications and respect her gender. … Gender has never been an issue. Her accomplishments speak to that.”

As for the “girls” comment, Norquist explained that he was talking to college kids. “The whole thing was very flip,” he said. Norquist said he “couldn’t remember Snowe’s name” so instead of saying Collins and “the other one” he said “the two girls.” It was all done in the context of ribbing McCain, Snowe and Collins for breaking ranks with the GOP during the judicial filibuster debate.

“I think the world of Susan Collins and I don’t know Snowe enough,” Norquist said.

Tally-Ho, Congressman. The House Rules Committee will likely be getting lots more foot traffic from young ladies come early next year, when British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s fetching son, Euan, starts interning for Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.). Euan Blair, 21, the prime minister’s eldest son, has lined up a three-month internship with Dreier beginning sometime in early 2006.

The Sunday Telegraph of London reported the news over the weekend, saying the young Blair, who is about to graduate from Bristol University, “will be mentored by the chairman of the committee,” a Britishism for saying the lad will work for Dreier.

Some Democrats raised eyebrows about the internship. The Sunday Telegraph quoted Eric Burns, a spokesman for Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, as saying, “It is extremely surprising that the son of a Labor prime minister would intern with the Republican majority staff on the committee.”

Dreier’s spokeswoman, Jo Maney, said there is nothing unusual about it. She said as a college Republican, she herself did an internship in the British Parliament for one of Tony Blair’s whips. “I certainly learned a lot,” Maney said.

In addition to interning for Dreier, sources say the young Blair will also intern for Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), the highest ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. While Dreier’s office readily confirmed the internship and expressed interest in furthering Blair’s education of U.S. government and politics, Harman’s office had no comment.

Please send your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments to hoh@rollcall.com.